When the Baby Chokes on Breast Milk

The Breastfeeding Week started on Saturday, August 1 and it will end this Friday
The main aim of commemorating this week is to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies. This is because breast milk contains all the nutrients required by a baby and, thus, leads to proper growth and development of babies.

However, there are instances when a child chokes on milk while breastfeeding. The baby may develop a weak cough and difficulties in breathing.

What causes the choking?

Choking happens when a foreign body gets lodged in the respiratory tract, causing respiratory arrest, explains Lynnth Turyagyenda, a nutritionist at Mwanamugimu unit, Mulago Hospital.

She adds that poor positioning is the major cause of choking for babies while breastfeeding because it causes them to strain their necks, making it difficult for them to feed well.

First Aid

Turyagenda advises that the parent follows these steps:

Pick the choking baby up while supporting their head. (The person giving first aid should be behind the baby)
Put your arms around the baby’s chest and bend it slightly forward
Place one clenched fist on the child’s abdomen directly over the navel
Place the other hand over the clenched fist and press inward. This should be done quickly and hard and slightly upwards into the child’s stomach
Dr. Christine Nabadda, a paediatrician at Mengo Hospital, says a child can also be laid on the side, which can help them bring back the milk through the mouth

She says the baby can also be turned upside down and given back blows and chest thrusts, while its back is tapped slowly. This, she explains, will open up the respiratory tract and enable proper breathing.

The person giving First Aid should hold the baby’s head before giving the baby five chest thrusts with two or three fingers on the lower half of the breastbone. This should be done until the foreign body comes out.

Turyagyenda adds that if the baby does not recover proper breathing or if it becomes unconscious, it should be rushed to the nearest health facility.


“To prevent choking, it is crucial to ensure proper baby attachment to the breast,” advises Turyagyenda.

A mother should ensure that while breastfeeding, the baby’s stomach should face the mother’s stomach, while the baby’s nose should face the mother’s nipple.

“What is more crucial is for the mother to ensure that she sits comfortably to enable the child suckle well.”